Have you ever had a sore throat, been stung by a bee, or twisted your ankle? Do you have arthritis, back pain or headaches? Whenever you are in pain, even post-surgical pain, your body makes compounds in response to the injury which cause temporary redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Then naturally produced enzymes in your body eat up these inflammatory compounds, and that is when you notice the swelling goes down, the pain is relieved and the redness or stiffness recedes.

One second ago, an enzyme in your body called superoxide dismutase (SOD) just chased out a cancer-causing toxin that your cell accidentally spawned. You make all sorts of enzymes, and what's cool is that you can also buy certain enzymes as a dietary supplement, including SOD. Lactose is an enzyme that chews up milk sugars, helping some people to tolerate milk. Bromelain, derived from pineapples, helps with allergies and helps people post-surgically. It might even reduce scarring if taken soon enough. People who take acid blockers could benefit from papain, an enzyme derived from papaya fruit that works nicely with your stomach's pH range.

Proteolytic enzymes another type of enzyme. They chew up proteins and help with digestion. I think they're great for chronic pain syndromes. They help dissolve fibrin deposits which helps bruising. As a teenager (way back in the 1980's) we played a game called Pac Man. Remember?(Please tell me you remember). This popular arcade game included a Pac-Man which traveled a maze and gobbled up ghosts. I was a monster at Pac-Man in my hey day! Proteolytic enzymes work in the same way, they just gobble up debris, as opposed to ghosts.

With less debris, there is improved circulation. That means more oxygen and healing nutrients to the site of injury. As a pharmacist, I recommend you reach for proteolytic enzymes before you NSAIDs such as acetaminophen, naproxen or ibuprofen. Why? Because they are temporary and they have side effects. It's the equivalent of applying a bandage, and while most of you fair out well, the unlucky few experience diarrhea, nausea, headaches, dizziness, bleeding ulcers or heaven forbid, kidney damage. Besides, if you mask your pain with medicine, but continue to operate as normal, you increase your risk of permanent damage.

A German paper studied proteolytic enzymes in 100 athletes. The results were shocking. More than 75 percent said the enzyme treatment was favorable and no side effects were reported! So incredible were the results that the German government sent millions of enzyme capsules to the Olympics to help their athletes heal quicker.

Enzymes are a necessity to life, just like oxygen, food, clean water and shelter. (Some may argue that chocolate should be included as well).

For chronic pain syndromes, as opposed to digestive issues, I recommend that you take your proteolytic enzyme supplement on an empty stomach. This increases the 'Pac-Man' effect by up to 40 percent. While these supplements are generally well-tolerated, I occasionally hear of allergies, rashes and digestive upset.

Dear Readers,

Low dose naltrexone or LDN is the prescription medication that every doctor has heard of, but never prescribes. Regular naltrexone (not low dose) is used for heroin addicts, alcoholics and opiate withdrawal. The low dose version of the same drug has undeniable applications for autoimmune conditions, chronic infections and pain syndromes. Consider it an affordable adjunct especially because Remicade, Imuran, prednisone and other immune drugs come with hefty side effects and outrageous price tags.

LDN has two functions in your body:

  1. It helps you tolerate your self.
  2. Reduces inflammation in your nervous system.

Let's start with number one, tolerating yourself. Even if you can't tolerate your annoying brother, you still need to tolerate yourself! I'm being facetious, but seriously, you must have the ability to tolerate your self, otherwise your immune cells attack your self. We call that an autoimmune disorder, and it means you've lost self tolerance. Think of rheumatoid, Hashimoto's, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's, and others. When you take LDN, you better tolerate "self." It happens because LDN turns on "T regulatory" cells and those smack down your immune system.

T reg cells have their own job which is to make sure that inflammatory chemicals are secreted appropriately to help you when injured, and then to stop that inflammation after you're healed. If you don't stop production of inflammatory chemicals (termed cytokines), then your body starts attacking everything in sight, pollen, dander, mold, dust mites (then you lose self tolerance) now it's attacking your thyroid, your joints, adrenals, heart or myelin sheath around nerve endings. Again, LDN acts like a referee and blows the whistle on this attack.

Now, number two on my list is how LDN reduces Inflammation in your nervous system. This is a huge advantage if you suffer with thyroid disease, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Lyme or neuropathic pain. Several papers written on this topic have shown that LDN blocks microglia in your central nervous system. These microglia are just immune cells in your brain and spinal cord that, when hyperactive, produce pain-causing chemicals, fatigue, unstable mood, insomnia and cognitive dysfunction. To your microglia, LDN feels like a cold compress does to a sunburn.

LDN works by blocking receptors on your cells that allow natural endorphins in. Endorphins are compounds you make when you feel good, eat chocolate, experience a runner's high or have sex. Endorphins increase your pain threshold. You want them inside the cell. With LDN blocking the cells, they become short on endorphins and send a chemical signal to your brain to say, "Hey, crank out more endorphins because I have none!" Your body generates more endorphins in response to the perceived deficiency. You probably get more endorphins in that moment, than a Black Friday sale at DSW! Emerging studies regarding dosage suggest that lower is better, such as 1 to 3mg at bedtime. Side effects are minimal and may include vivid dreaming or sleep disturbance which improves if you reduce dose or take during the day.

You're methylating right now! This means you're turning folate (vitamin B9) from your food, into something else called SAMe. It's the process called "methylation" and SAMe is your body's head honcho, the CEO if you will!

SAMe stands for S-adenosylmethionine and drives hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. If you ate a salad for lunch, you're turning that folate into SAMe as we speak. Well, let's hope because SAMe helps you get rid of poisons. The biggest mistake you could make is thinking that methylation problems don't apply to you because you don't have the gene mutation, what we call the genetic snp (pronounced "snip"). Nothing could be further from the truth. As a pharmacist, and a Functional Medicine practitioner, I assure you that your medicine has the capacity to mess up your methylation! Then poisons back up.

Don't think you make poisons in your body because you eat well and exercise? Wrong. Your cells churn poisons out as metabolic waste products probably a million times a minute! You better hope and pray your methylation pathway is up to snuff because if you don't methylate, toxic by-products build up all over your body. This equates to pain, depression, inflammation, elevated homocysteine, cognitive dysfunction, depression, higher risk for neural tube defects and much more discomfort. If you have the genetic snp it's a one-two punch for health problems galore.

So in summary, medications hinder your methylation pathway, whether or not you have a snp. These are the primary offenders:

Cholestyramine. This is a bile acid sequestrate used for reducing cholesterol as well as reducing Herxheimer (die-off) reactions. It is a drug mugger of folate and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, A, E and K. Remember, no folate, no methylation!

Birth control or hormonal replacement drugs with estrogen. these drugs are known drug muggers of magnesium, B6 and B2 (riboflavin); that puts the breaks on methylation. Started 'The Pill' recently, and now you feel down in the dumps? This could be why.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, others). Lowering natural acid production in the stomach reduces levels of magnesium, and critical B vitamins. Snp or not, your body simply cannot conduct methylation adequate levels of these nutrients!

Antibiotics like amoxicillin, sulfamethoxazole, doxycycline and dozens more. Antibiotics kill your intestinal microflora (what you call your probiotics). Without the friendly gut flora, you cannot produce vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin). You also cannot activate riboflavin or folate so therefore, your methylation is blocked.

Ibuprofen. This is a drug mugger of folate, so it blocks methylation directly by stealing your folate.

Blood pressure pills like ACE inhibitors. These drugs (enalapril, lisinopril, etc) cause added zinc excretion. You need zinc to conduct methylation.

Nitrous oxide. Been to the dentist lately? If you got NO gas, then no methylation took place for awhile!

There are hundreds of other medicines that hinder your ability to methylate, snp or not! You may not have your genetic details or tests yet, so here are clues to poor methylation: Nerve pain, numbness or tingling, chronic fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, depression, mood swings, attention problems, cervical dysplasia, miscarriage, brain fog, weakness and lots of allergies.

Dear Readers,

I'm one of those cooks that combines whatever I find in the fridge or pantry without a plan. I'll throw spices and foods together like a mad scientist, kind of how I did in Organic Chemistry in 1987 (hoping I wouldn't blow up the lab). Recently, I went to my first cooking class, "Secrets of Indian Cuisine" at Sur La Table.

Focusing was difficult since I was distracted by the incredible aroma of the garlic, onion and seasonings which were simmering in the pot. Our chef taught us how to create the most amazing Chicken Tikka Masala I've ever tasted! In between bites and moans, I asked why his tasted so much better than the restaurant version. He said, "The secret is the spice you use." He did not use the powdered spices you get from a regular grocery store. His were fresh and he turned both the cumin and coriander seeds into powder using a little electric coffee grinder.

Our eyes widened as he passed around his freshly ground spice with the same store-bought version. The color was completely different. One whiff and his point was made! I decided it's worth the extra 5 minutes to use spices his way. Indian spices are some of the healthiest on the planet and can act as an aphrodisiac, antibacterial, immune booster, respiratory aid and digestive tonic. I recommend these:

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